Do Health Risks Outweigh Health Benefits in Youth Sports? Articles Critique

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Boston College
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Sports play a vital role in our day-to-day lives. Among the youths, sports are vital to physical and social development as they encourage the youth to exercise and to interact with each other. However, the participation in sports comes with some risks. Serious injuries and fatalities can result due to an individual's participation in sports. This essay compares the health benefits accrued by youths participation in sports against the health risks associated with the participation. It presents a critique and analysis of two articles.

Article 1 Critique

Maroon, Joseph, and Julian Bailes. "The health benefits of youth contact sports outweigh the risks." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017.

Maroon and Julian argue that the health benefits attributed to the youth's participation in contact sports heavily outweighs the risks of participation. From the authors, it is vivid that fear is being exploited by the media to create sensational but unproven allegations of the risk of concussions due to participation in contact sports especially football. In this work, the authors utilize the work of experienced neurologists who conclude that the risk of concussion in footballers in both the youth level and the professional level has been exaggerated. The neurologists believe that although there is a risk of concussions, the risk is outweighed by the benefits of playing football. However, they believe that more can be done to improve the safety of participants in the sport.

The risk of brain injury and its severity is creating panic on youth sports especially football in school levels. Maroon and Julian blame the public misunderstanding of the existing medical research and see this misunderstanding as a key threat against contact sports in schools. He argues that using the existing medical research, neurologists, and physicians should encourage parents to allow children to participate in contact sports due to the benefits accrued by the participation.

The youth's participation in contact sports has both behavioral and health benefits. The authors acknowledge the exceptional contribution made by the participation in the modeling of a child's character and the lessons of teamwork, discipline, self-control, and triumph over one's adversaries. The involvement in the sports is important in combating lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cardiac diseases, and hypertension. According to the authors, the contact sports are a part of US traditions and participation in them is a way of maintaining the tradition (2).

According to the authors, people are misinterpreting the plight of a few professional footballers such as the late NFL Hall of Famer, Mike Webster and they wonder how kids are safe in a game when the professionals are not. Maroon and Julian state that out of approximately 44 million football players in the last four years throughout all ranks in the US, only 63 have been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Almost all these players have been professionals. The research has not investigated other causes of CTE such as genetic factors and pharmacological factors, and thus it is not certain that CTE is caused by concussions. Therefore, the authors argue, CTE is not an adequate justification for non-participation in contact sports.

The authors blame the media for overreacting to unproved speculations and leading to anti-football hype. This hype is being blamed for the reduced participation in football. However, they also believe that the contacts sports can be made safer. Changing rules to decrease aggression, use of protective clothing, innovations in equipment and adaptation of good post-concussion medical care can make the sports safer to the participating youths.

Article 2 Critique

Zimmerman, Jonathan. "We must stop risking the health of young football players." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017.

Zimmerman argues that contacts sports are becoming more dangerous to professional and youth players with players suffering from concussions and other injuries. He attributes these injuries in football partial to the first-pass offenses which have led to an increase in fast-speed collisions. The author notes that there has been an increase in reported injuries in football and he believes that children and professionals do not need to be exposed to these levels of risk.

The author claims that implementing changes in hopes of reducing the injuries in football is futile. He argues that for decades, all changes that have been introduced to football have brought no considerable reduction in injuries. Zimmerman blames these new introductions such as clock-stopping and first-pass offense for the increase in injuries and concussions. The introduction of helmets which was aimed to reduce head injuries by cushioning the head made players to commit to tackles head first and this lead to increase in concussions.

Zimmerman argues that contact sports such a football are dangerous for children whose neck muscles and skull have not fully developed and advocates that children should not be allowed to participate in football. However, he does not give adequate scientific evidence on the risk posed by football to the health of the young players. Instead of using scientific evidence, he uses opinions of people such as the former president Barack Obama to prove his case. Again without providing sufficient evidence, the author blames the NFL for exploiting young footballers without considering the supposedly adverse effects of playing football.


The benefits of a child's participation in contact sports such as football far much outweigh the risk associated with the participation. The participation in the sports provides an opportunity for social and physical development of a child. They learn how to interact with people from diverse background, and this leads to improvement in the child's self-confidence. Football also enables children to learn important traits such as responsibility, discipline, hard work and teamwork. The involvement in football also enables the child to develop physically due to constant exercise, and this enables them to be fit and develop resistance to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes in their adulthood.

The fact that there are risks in participation in contacts sports cannot be ignored. Concussions, knee injuries, broken bones and dislocated joints are some of the harms that are common in football. Some of these injuries may be fatal, and other may lead to an end of one's playing career. However, these risks do not warrant the ban on children's participation in contact sports. There are risks of bodily harm in all sports, and thus banning is not a viable option, not for football. It is noteworthy that only a small percentage of football players suffer from major injuries.

Since the banning of football is not an option, steps need to be taken to reduce player injuries. Players need to be discouraged from an overly aggressive play which is aimed at injuring an opponent. Technology advancements have made it possible to development of equipment that reduces the impact on players. Use of material such as mouth guards and knee braces that slow players can eliminate the probability of injury among the players. It is important for players and the NFL to conduct studies on how to improve the safety of the players without major changes to the game. Increasing the safety will encourage more participation in both the youth and the professional levels.


Works Cited

Maroon, Joseph, and Julian Bailes. "The health benefits of youth contact sports outweigh the risks." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 2 Oct. 2017. Originally published as "Weighing the childhood risks of contact sports," Washington Times, 29 Jan. 2015.

Zimmerman, Jonathan. "We must stop risking the health of young football players." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 2 Oct. 2017. Originally published as "Football: Unsafe at any level," Los Angeles Times, 13 Sept. 2014.


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